10 blogging tips for a NOOB

This week, I’m participating in an online blog conference with Liz from Belle, Bean and Chicago Dog and Jessica from Four Plus an Angel.

I don’t have the funds for a blog conference right now, so this is as good as it’s going to get. But as I’m a sucker for Twitter parties and linkys, I decided to jump in, spew a little knowledge, ask a few questions and maybe meet some cool new bloggers.

The first prompt is from the Advice for Others section and is:

  • If a real life friend approached you and said, “I want to start a blog. Can you give me a list of helpful tips?“, what 10 (or more) things would you tell your friend?

Oh wait. Ten? Really? That’s a lot. Of course I have a lot to say about it, too.

We’ve all been blogging NOOBS. No one starts out with a blog and is immediately getting 10,000 page views per day (and if you do, please write 10 blogging tips for me to get that kind of traffic.) The following are a few things that I’ve learned that have made my blogging experience so much more enjoyable.

1. Get the no-reply off your blogger address. Seriously, do it. Here is an article with step-by-step instructions. Now you have no excuse. Most other bloggers will agree, but for some reason this still perpetuates. The default for blogger blogs/ blogger profiles is this no-reply setting, but it doesn’t allow the blogger to respond to your comment via email.  On a Blogger blog, it’s very hard to reply to comments through comments, so the email reply function is crucial. Most bloggers want to continue the conversation with you!

2. Turn off word verification. I know you have this on for your convenience and to keep spam at bay, but you’re also severely limiting the engagement you could have on your blog. It’s infinitely harder to leave comments on blogs with word verification, and even more so when you are reading on a smart phone. I never got more than 10 spam comments in almost two years on Blogger.

3. Read blogs. Find other bloggers who you find interesting, funny, clever; bloggers who inspire you; bloggers who have a similar niche. Comment on these blogs regularly. This will help you build your tribe, which is the first step in successful blogging.

4. This one might raise some eyebrows, but I’m going for it. The Bloggess is great. Seriously, I love her blog. However, commenting on every post she publishes is not going to help you get readers (unless you’re getting them through your comments). When I started blogging I thought, “If only I could get a ‘big blogger’ to notice me, I’ll be golden!’” Then I started reading smaller blogs, making friends with them, sharing my life with people who I could connect with on a personal level, and honestly? I don’t read those “big blogs” nearly as often. I’m not saying they aren’t interesting and funny and cool and worth while, but don’t focus all your energy on big blogs. It wasn’t until I started making those connections with bloggers who could  that I actually fell in love with blogging.

5. Respond to comments. Now, I used to not respond to every comment when I was on Blogger because it was sort of a hassle, especially if there was a no-reply situation. I would, however, respond to a blogger’s comment with a visit to their blog and a comment. Since switching to Word Press, I respond directly to comments on my blog because it emails the commenter. Thanking readers for taking the time to read what you wrote is the number one way to begin building your community.

6. Sometimes you will be tempted to write about something controversial or in the news only because you might get more traffic. I’m not saying don’t post about controversial things, but if you’re doing it just because you think you should, you’re going to feel yucky about it in the long run. One time I created a post just because I saw some traffic on my analytics and wrote another post on the same topic. It wasn’t me, wasn’t my voice and just felt wrong. Write what you know and be authentic. Those things will bring more traffic than any tailored post.

7. Participate in memes. I love memes because they not only give you an automatic topic, but allows you to find other bloggers and see how they approached the same subject. I’ve met tons of great people through memes and have written some great pieces when I don’t have to come up with a topic first. A few that I like: VlogTalk, Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop, Target Tuesday, and Pour Your Heart Out.

*At this point I stopped and took a nap because the baby was napping, and during this nap I dreamed about this post. So, 7.5 is, if you start dreaming about blogging you’re doing it right or wrong. I’ve yet to figure that out.*

8. Newsflash: You probably aren’t going to make thousands of dollars on your blog. I’m not saying there aren’t chances to montetize, because there are — lots of opportunities, but you have to look for them and work hard. You have to do all the things above to build your community and make connections. It’s certainly not easy money.

9. And also? A successful blog takes a TIME COMMITMENT. Ask any of the “big bloggers” and they would probably tell you they spend almost as much time as they would a full time job. Ask someone like me and I’d tell you I spend at least 10 hours a week writing, responding to comments, reading other blogs, updating my Facebook, Tweeting and participating in communities, and that’s the minimum. I would spend way more time if I had it! It’s a joy to me, though. This is my hobby. Some people play sports, or scrapbook, or craft. I blog.

10. Finally, be yourself. Don’t write for anyone else — write for you. Write what you love, write your passion. Use your voice, not the voice you think people expect. Writing yourself into a corner with topics that aren’t you will make you resent your blog and cause you to burn out.  I still struggle with this sometimes. Are people reading what I’m writing? Do they hate what I have to say? Sometimes the desire to get more traffic or comments takes over what you originally intended your blog to be. Don’t let it.

This is what I’ve learned, and I’m still learning.

What are your best tips for blogging? Is your blog still the way you envisioned it? Better? Worse?

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48 comments to 10 blogging tips for a NOOB

  • Number 10 gets me the most … the whole idea of using your authentic voice rather than being something you’re not for the sake of building an audience. Agree completely! We continue to build our audience everyday and we believe that the “bit by bit” approach is working for us.

    Also, I just attended a blogging conference where (all) of the speakers pretty much said that blogging doesn’t really make them money (not of any significance anyway). And I think a lot of attendees were disappointed to hear that, but honestly, we do it for the fun, the learning, and the connections. Great post!
    Angie recently posted..#SummerBlogSocial …you want MY advice??? Well, OK :)

    • Amanda

      You know, it seems so simple but I know it’s incredibly easy to get caught up in what others are doing (and doing successfully) that you start to think, “hey….maybe that’s what I need to do, too!” I agree, bit by bit is the way to go…because you’re getting readers who want to be there and will stick around, not those who just are following because it’s the cool thing to do.

  • Elena

    These are awesome tips! I’m glad you went there with #4 – I used to think the same thing. I wouldn’t say I went after the biggest ones at first, but I definitely went to pretty big blogs with the same idea in mind. Doesn’t work. #5 & 6 – so true. Thanks for the VlogTalk mention!
    Elena recently posted..Summer Blog Social: Advice for Others

    • Amanda

      My pleasure …I love Vlogtalk!!! Glad that you’re with me on #4…I see lots of people spending so much time on those blogs that sometimes it seems like they are *trying* to get noticed…when they could be getting noticed more easily with “peer blogs” AND get to know people. Win/win!

  • Omg. Yes. Tweeted a link to this post!
    Tara recently posted..how to make a man commit: psycho chick style.

    • Amanda

      And one of these days I’m doing Target Tuesday…I just never get my butt in gear for it since Tuesday is usually my “off” blogging day!

  • #9 is spot on. This is my hobby, it’s what I do for fun. If you jump into this thinking you’re going to be rich and famous, you’re going to hate it.
    Julie @ mamamash recently posted..Now, with added bacon!

  • This is so true and I’m forwarding this post to a friend who just asked me the best way to go about starting a blog.

    I would add only that you need to have a decent idea of what “Type” of blogger you intend to be. It can evolve but you should know where you’re planning to commune :)
    jessica@domesticated-bliss recently posted..Just me.

    • Amanda

      You’re absolutely right! That definitely helps you get consistent and create a brand, which is also really important. I made that mistake the hard way…just drifted by with whatever and didn’t have a brand or really a focus until just this year. crazy!

  • I will always be the defender of the no-reply thing. Yes, it’s crappy, but that is Blogger’s fault, not the reader’s fault. Blogger needs to change their system so a blog’s readers are never asked to publicly publish their email address to comment.

    (And I realize that people can set up a “blog” Gmail account and use that one for a Blogger profile, but if you use Gmail for other stuff, then it turns in to having to turn on multiple sign in, you have to be sure to sign in to the blog email first because Google defaults to the first login when using Blogger, or you have to use separate browsers…)
    Lisa recently posted..Maybe TV is bad for me.

    • Amanda

      Yeah, I can see that. I have a blog email address and a personal one and I almost never use the blog one because everything else is on the other account. But I guess with me I think, “hey, they are bloggers anyway and most already have their email address posted somewhere on the blog, so why not let people utilize it?”

  • This list is perfect. And if you figure out if dreaming about blogging is good or bad let me know. I’ve always wondered myself!

  • Love all of your points! So true.
    Mrs. Jen B recently posted..Easy Pasta Puttanesca

  • YES to comments!

    And I really, REALLY love that you said what you did about Big Bloggers. There is only 1 Bloggess, 1 Scary Mommy and 1 Mama Kat. And they have thousands of followers. Cultivate your own friends and following with 99.99% of the remaining bloggers.

    P.S. I think some “seasoned” bloggers could learn from this. I don’t get those who are *chasers*.
    liz recently posted..10 Tips for a New Blogger

    • Amanda

      Thank you Liz! That means a lot coming from a guru…seriously! It’s the “chasers” who end up hating blogging because they never get that personal attention from The Bloggess or whoever. I’ve actually seen posts out there in the past from people who are bitching because the big bloggers didn’t talk to them. As if this is high school and the cool kids didn’t invite you to their table. Extending this metaphor — this high school has some freaking AWESOME tables of all kinds of people….find a seat where the people will appreciate you!

  • Excellent, excellent post, Amanda! No raised eyebrows from me on #5 – I wholeheartedly agree!

    And #10 is so, so important. In fact, I’ve had to reign myself in this week with this very meme. I feel this “pressure” to jump on the bandwagon and churn out a Top 10 list of blogging tips, and reading everyone else’s keeps giving me more ideas. But I just had to stop and remind myself that I don’t like “listicles.” They’re not my thing and I don’t really do them all that well. And try as I might, I’m not going to be able to write a post that encompasses and consolidates every important blogging tip, and then I’ll just be left feeling as if I’m spinning my wheels and comparing myself to others. So, I passed on the tips – honestly, I don’t think mine would do yours justice anyway, and there are already so many other great lists – and just wrote from my heart on another prompt. Because that’s my strength and I know it.

    Oh, and I dream about blogging all the time. I also have yet to figure out if that means I’m doing it right or wrong. ;)
    Kristin @ What She Said recently posted..She Eats: Balsamic Chicken with Baby Spinach

    • Amanda

      You know what though? There are SO many of the tips out there today, which is fab! It’s all about teaching each other as we go. There isn’t a blogger out there who doesn’t need a little help now and then. You have to do what’s comfortable. I’ve learned to pass on the things that don’t fit what I do. As much as I like some of the link-ups I visit, there are times when I look at prompts and say, “this isn’t for me this week. I’l pass.”

  • I definitely agree! There was a time in spring of 2010 where my blog started to grow faster than I could keep up with it. I had no idea the time commitment that would be required to maintain and then grow even further. I ended up taking a break which stopped the growth and caused me to lose followers, but mentally I was definitely in a better place when I came back.

  • KLZ

    Boom! 9 and 10 is something I SO wish other people understood more.
    KLZ recently posted..Summer Blog Social: The Goals

  • A lot of great tips here!

    The only thing I feel I can mention, is that if you use Blogger there is a fix for that whole not-able-to-thread-comments thing. Install Intense Debate. It’s easy to use and it means you can respond to every comment. :)

    And I really feel #10 is the most important tip. It’s so important to remember why you are blogging and to not let it change who you are. Your personality defines your blog, not the other way around. Or something. That may have sounded lame. Oh well. I’m leaving it.
    Roxanne recently posted..Summer Blog Social

    • Amanda

      Totally not lame, you’re right on point with that! It’s so easy to change based on what other people are doing, but you know, when I try it I always feel terrible about it in the long run. And people can tell because I get less comments! So I stick to what I know.

  • #10 is my favorite. You said it, sista!
    I love this linkup that Liz & Jessica are doing—such fun to read everyone’s posts!


    p.s. I used to do what you did, i.e. with THe Blogess….I thought the key to everything was through a “big blogger.” Boy was I wrong!!
    Erin Margolin recently posted..Blogging Tips & Tricks

    • Amanda

      Funny how so many people go through that “get with a big blogger” phase! I still enjoy them, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t spend time anymore trying to comment as fast as I can so the blogger will see my post :)

  • I so agree about the bigger blogger thing. While I do enjoy reading those, I realize that is not where I’m going to grow my blog. It’s about finding people I can connect with and spending time with them. I’ve actually stopped reading a lot of the big blogs though, just in the interest of time.
    Rach (DonutsMama) recently posted..{Guest Post} Picture This: Easy Photography Tips

    • Amanda

      SO glad y’all are in agreement about that! I was nervous posting that tip because I was afraid I’d get some negative feedback about it. I agree, it’s all about time…I read them when I am bored and need something to read, but when i have so many FRIENDS blogs I’d rather spend my time on, the big blogs fall by the wayside.

  • I dream about blogging so it MUST be a good thing (ha!)

    I have to say that number 9 has been the biggest eye-opener to me; the thing I least expected when I started a blog.

    And I post only once a week, generally.

    Still, it takes hours of my time to craft a post (and I do sweat over it – as an English teacher, I can’t do anything but take what I write seriously) and I spend a lot of time reading and commenting on other people’s blogs (because I don’t want to leave the “LOL COME VISIT MY BLOG” type of comment. Ever).

    The only thing I’d add to your list is to remain open to finding new blogs through blogs you already love; I’ve discovered some of my favorite people by noticing their comments and following them back; or checking out a guest post instead of skipping it…

    I met you through KLZ and will always be grateful. To me, you’re both BIG BLOGGERS (the size of your hearts; not any other body parts I assure you!)

    Love this, Amanda – you are simply fabulous ~
    julie gardner recently posted..Today call me inked.

    • Amanda

      Thank you, Julie! Your comments are always so sweet and thoughtful, I really look forward to them. I’ve found all my favorite blogs through my friends’ blogs. I remember starting out and asking “I need some good blogs to read! Advice?” and from then on, the well has never dried.

      And thank you for saying my heart is big (instead of my butt being big.)

  • #4 – what I’ve been thinking but never said out loud, so thank you for saying it. I read The Bloggess all the time because she’s freaking hilarious but I’ve only ever commented 2-3 times, only because I had something to say. I noticed that some folks jump into commenting there just hoping to get noticed and it’s painful to watch. Now, not that I’m being judgey, everyone grows their blog in their own way. I just wish they’d take the time to read more smaller blogs. I do that and the joy at discovering a fab blog, almost as good as ice cream (and for me, that’s huge hehe).

    #9 and #10 – yes, yes, yes.
    Alison@Mama Wants This recently posted..Summer Blog Social! 10 tips for New Bloggers

    • Amanda

      I’m so glad you agree with #4. I was afraid people wouldn’t and I would look like a jerk! Painful is the word, definitely. They are trying too hard and not using “their voice” most times…and you can SO see through it. I’ve heard people say before, “I wish I knew when The Bloggess/Dooce/Pioneer Woman would be posting so I can be the first to comment”…so why not use that energy to find blogs of people who will really become friends with you!? I personally dont’ get it, but to each her/his own.

  • I think these are great. As a whole, it gives a wonderful picture of the reality of blogging. And I’m with you – if someone has gotten 10,000 pagevies a month right at the beginning, I need to read their top 10 tips! :)
    Missy | The Literal Mom recently posted..The 5 Places Your Blog POPS (or Not) and Why

  • janie

    These are great! Commenting, participating in blog carnivals (could never get used to the word meme :)), and joining communities are what helped me connect with other bloggers. Oh and yes to #1! Blogger should do something about that. I didn’t really give it much thought until I couldn’t keep up with replying to comments anymore (not that I have many).
    janie recently posted..{this time last year}

    • Amanda

      Blog Carnival sounds so much more fun than meme, that’s for sure! The communities have been really helpful to me, too. Just meeting others who are in the same boat as you helps. I find myself going less to those communities after awhile because i have my own smaller group of blog besties.

  • Great advice.

    I HATE those no reply comments. I can’t tell you how many replies I’ve shot off into No Reply space because I don’t notice until it’s too late.
    Amber recently posted..Wanted: Bun Lady

  • This is a great list. I love that you added #4 because I feel the same. I rarely visit the big bloggers because, for me, blogging is all about relationships and a relationship with a “big blogger” is pretty one sided. There are a few I read once in a while because I like their writing but I don’t read them to further my own blog. Once I really connected with bloggers on my own level that is when my love for blogging really grew. So glad you linked up!
    Jessica recently posted..Support in Numbers

    • Amanda

      One sided, exactly! I will read the big bloggers when I have nothing else to do, or when my regular blog reading is caught up — which is almost never. Usually I’ll do my “big blog” reading when I’m running errands with my hubby or driving back from a trip (being passenger, that is)

  • Love this list! I agree 100% especially with #10! It took me awhile to fully grasp this concept but it was only when I did that my blog began growing. Who knew people would actually like me? Also, the whole no-reply system is a perfect reason to be on WP versus blogger. I loooove being able to easily converse with my readers!
    Jamee @ A New Kind of Normal recently posted..Summer Blog Social: 10 Things I’ve Learned About Blogging

  • I love your list! My favorite comments come from readers who have been with me for awhile. They are wonderful friends.
    JDaniel4′s Mom recently posted..Pause Life for a Moment- Life Without Pink

  • I’m right there with you on 4 and 5. The other ones also but those two I found myself really agreeing to. It’s nice to read bigger blogs but your main audience is going to be smaller bloggers, make friends with them. I reply to almost every single one of my comments. I know it takes a lot of time but I think it shows that I’m engaged with my readers and that I care about the comments they leave for me.

    • Amanda

      This is one of the reasons I love your blog so much. I know that when I comment, you read it and appreciate it. That means a lot to readers and that’s why I try to do the same. It may take more time, but it’s worth it in the long run.

  • I think I agree with it all! I am so with you on the no-reply blogger. I posted about that once, but I think all my no-replier were MIA that day–uhg. And #4 I also agree with. Most of my blog friends are still small-timers like me. :)
    Grumpy Grateful Mom recently posted..#SummerBlogSocial: Blogging Surprises!

  • Yes! Friends, memes and TIME! Great list!
    Galit Breen recently posted..Ten Tips for New Bloggers

  • You have inspired me! I have a new found motivation for blogging. Thank you thank you!
    Amy Mac recently posted..Welcome to my blog’s new home!!

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